Propane is a versatile fuel used daily for patio heaters, barbecues and forklifts. But the fact that it is commonplace doesn’t diminish the danger of handling and storing it.
Propane is a liquefied petroleum product. When stores in pressurized cylinders, it must be handled with care to prevent injuries. This post looks at how propane works and explores tips for keeping you safe when you handle propane cylinders.
Tips to Handle Propane:
For this one, we’re taking a trip back to high school chemistry, hope you were paying attention…
When stored under the proper pressure, gases compress into liquids. At room temperature propane’s natural state is a gas and to sell it as a liquid, it has to be compressed.
This compression has several effects.
1. Transferring Propane:
When transferring liquid propane from a large tank to a smaller cylinder, you must wear gloves to protect your hands from the cold.
As you learned in that chemistry class, as the pressure inside a fixed volume decreases (ie. storage tank), the temperature of that vessel decreases as well.
You’ve probably experienced that in the compressed cans used when you clean dust and debris from your computer. This will happen to any high-pressure gasses.
To protect your hands, you need to have proper hand protection to keep any freezing gasses that escape from hurting you. Here’s one of our favorites:
2. Conversion to Gas:
Once the propane has evaporated into gas form, it’s heavier than regular air. This means that propane leaks can actually linger where you are and make breathing difficult.
3. Don’t Close Yourself Off:
Always work with propane in a well-ventilated area to prevent the chance of inhaling propane and becoming sick.
While propane itself has no odor, a scent is added to propane fuel so that operators can detect when there is a leak. If you smell something rotten, don’t give your co-worker a dirty look.
Close any gas valves and move to a well-ventilated area immediately.
4. Pinching Hazards:
Regulator mechanisms can easily catch fingers and hands in their threads and shouldn’t be handled with bare hands.
Since propane is stored as a liquid but is consumed as gas, propane cylinders have threaded valves that allow the evaporated gas to come out the top of the cylinder.
These are usually large threaded pieces.
Often the location of the two parts of the valve in relation to the cylinder is not a very accessible place.
This can cause someone installing or replacing a propane cylinder to have to “install by feel” without being able to properly see what they are doing.
This is an equation for pinching injuries; gloves are the solution.